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FORUM: QUALITATIVE Volume 10, No. 2, Art.

34
SOCIAL RESEARCH May 2009
SOZIALFORSCHUNG

An Integrated Analysis of the Perceptions of Health Care Users,


Professionals, and Managers in Catalonia1

Lupicinio Iiguez, Pilar Monreal, Jordi Sanz, Arantza del Valle & Josep Fust

Key words: health Abstract: The increased demand for health services and the inclusion of new aspects in what is
agents; health culturally considered "health and health care" represent a significant challenge for the current
resources; health health care system and health care practice model in Catalonia. Determining health care needs and
processes; providing the right responses to them should not only be the job of experts. Rather, it should involve
professional-user the participation of all the agents who live with and in the health care system every day. The aim of
relationship; this article is to point out the importance of the perceptions of the agents involved in health care for
qualitative planning and decision-making in health policies. A summary of the integrated perspectives of the
methodology public, professionals, and managers from the Catalan health care system is presented. Such
perspectives can reveal the agreements and disagreements concerning the dimensions of health
care participants define as important: health resources, health care processes, and the relationship
between professionals and users.

Table of Contents

1. Introduction
2. Theoretical Framework
3. Research Methodology
3.1 Sampling and data collection methods
3.2 Information collection and analysis
4. Results
4.1 Health resources
4.1.1 Health resources: Users
4.1.2 Health resources: Professionals
4.1.3 Health resources: Managers
4.2 Health processes
4.2.1 Health processes: Users
4.2.2 Health processes: Professionals
4.2.3 Health processes: Managers
4.3 The professional-user relationship
4.3.1 The professional-user relationship: Users
4.3.2 The professional-user relationship: Professionals
4.3.3 The professional-user relationship: Managers
5. Discussion

1 This article has been developed as part of the project "Estudi de les visions de ciutadans,
professionals i gestors, sobre els serveis de salut a Catalunya" [Study of the views of the public,
professionals and managers on health services in Catalonia] (2005). Universitat Autnoma de
Barcelona-Universitat de Girona and Department of Health of the Government of Catalonia
directed by Marga SNCHEZ-CANDAMIO and Lupicinio IGUEZ.

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Forum Qualitative Sozialforschung / Forum: Qualitative Social Research (ISSN 1438-5627)
FQS 10(2), Art. 34, Lupicinio Iiguez, Pilar Monreal, Jordi Sanz, Arantza del Valle & Josep Fust:
An Integrated Analysis of the Perceptions of Health Care Users, Professionals, and Managers in Catalonia

Acknowledgments
References
Authors
Citation

1. Introduction

The range of demands on the health care system is widening constantly (e.g.
home health care for the elderly), and it is foreseeable that in the near future
preventive strategies concerning social determinants of health will become more
important than purely medical tasks. Policies must be adapted to this challenge
and they must be able to offer alternatives and ways of dealing with it that are
suited to these new expectations. However, this process must respect the
principles of the universal guarantee of care and of fairness in access to services.
Consequently, determining health care needs and providing the right responses
to them should not be only the job of experts. Instead it must involve the
participation of the various agents who live with and in the health care system
every day. [1]

The social significance of health care is not the same for all of the agents
involved. A wide range of elements shape the different positions establishing
what health care is, how it is provided, and what expectations are created in
relation to health and the health care system. Various everyday aspects relate to
the health care system in different ways. The social meaning of health care will
be different depending on whether we take an interest in professional groups
(doctors, nurses, and others in direct contact with users), in management
(administrative workers involved in planning and management responsibilities), or
in the users of the system (patients and care-givers). That is, each of these
constituencies has different experiences of health care. The interaction between
these three groups therefore makes up the current state of the health care
system, expressed in discourse, practices and policies. [2]

Health service planning processes are generally carried out hierarchically,


handed down from the administration to the public; that is, from health
administration implementing the processes within the population that receives
services, and that may or may not provide a response to individuals' everyday
health needs. However, when drawing up the health, social services/health, and
public health plan of Catalonia, particular interest was shown from the beginning
in designing the process to include the perspectives of the populations interacting
with the health care system every day: the public as users (patients and care-
givers), professionals, and managers (DEPARTAMENT DE SALUT, 2008).
Information and data presented in this article are related to aspects of a wider
research collaboration formally established among the Government of Catalonia's
Department of Health, the Autonomous University of Barcelona, and the
University of Girone. [3]

2009 FQS http://www.qualitative-research.net/


FQS 10(2), Art. 34, Lupicinio Iiguez, Pilar Monreal, Jordi Sanz, Arantza del Valle & Josep Fust:
An Integrated Analysis of the Perceptions of Health Care Users, Professionals, and Managers in Catalonia

The purpose of the wider research project was to compare the perceptions of the
public, professionals, and managers of the health care system in order to guide
health planning in Catalonia, providing a qualitative methodological perspective to
generate socially significant and relevant information for practitioners.
Consequently, in this study we are interested in how the public, professionals,
and managers understand health care in Catalonia and how this provides
important information for guiding decision-making in health services planning.
More specifically, experiences, perceptions, and assessments of the agents
involved in the care given by the health services are identified, allowing us to
generate substantive information about the key aspects, practices, and the
meanings attributed to health care from the perspective of these agents, in order
to systematize the strengths and weaknesses of the health care system. [4]

This article does not give a detailed explanation of the broader study's final
results (IGUEZ et al., 2007). Rather our aim to point out the importance of the
perceptions of the agents involved in health care for planning and decision-
making in health policies, as well as reflecting on the usefulness of qualitative
methodology in health research. A summary of these perceptions of the Catalan
health care system will be presented from an integrated perspective, understood
as the holistic, comparative analysis of the perceptions of the public,
professionals, and managers, allowing us to appreciate their agreements and
disagreements concerning the important dimensions of health care defined by the
participants. In this case, we will refer to health resources, health processes, and
professional-user relationships. Finally, the importance of the concept of user
participation in health services as a practice that forms part of the health services
policy for planning and implementation is discussed. [5]

2. Theoretical Framework

The study of social reality through language is an analytical and methodological


approach that has been extended to different disciplines ranging from socio-
linguistics to ethno-methodology and social psychology. Its potential lies in the
fact that what is said becomes one of the bases for the social construction of
reality. Thus, language can be understood in terms of discourse, as an act of
speaking through which symbolic constructs become real. Social agents use
these constructs not only to make sense of their reality but also to give it a
particular form. Therefore, however disparate different approaches to analyzing
social reality through language may appear, our study selects from among them
an approach to the construction of social reality made by the everyday use of
symbolic and linguistic devices. [6]

Based on this, the theoretical framework of this study may be defined as eclectic.
In the interest of brevity, the entire theoretical framework will not be elucidated
here except for mentioning the core concepts for this article: the concept of social
imaginary (CASTORIADIS, 2006), the concept of metaphor (LIZCANO, 2006)
and the concept of frame (GOFFMAN, 2006; LAKOFF, 2007) [7]

2009 FQS http://www.qualitative-research.net/


FQS 10(2), Art. 34, Lupicinio Iiguez, Pilar Monreal, Jordi Sanz, Arantza del Valle & Josep Fust:
An Integrated Analysis of the Perceptions of Health Care Users, Professionals, and Managers in Catalonia

CASTORIADIS (1989) speaks of social imaginary as the set of values,


institutions, laws, and symbols common to a particular social group and the
corresponding society. While not constituting an established reality, the social
imaginary is however an institution as it represents the system of meanings that
govern a given social system. These imaginaries are to be understood as
historical constructs defined by the interactions of subjects in society. In that
sense, the imaginary is not necessarily "real" as it is an imagined concept
contingent on the imagination of a particular social subject. Nevertheless, there
remains some debate among those who use the term (or its associated terms,
such as imaginaire) as to the ontological status of the imaginary. The social
imaginary is not a set of "ideas"; rather it is what enables, through a making
sense of, the practices of a society. It penetrates the entire life of society,
directing it and guiding it. [8]

LIZCANO's (2006) work helps us consider the systematic analysis of metaphors,


the use of which is an excellent way to understanding social imaginaries given its
undefined nature, leaving room only for allusion by indirect references and
analogies. A metaphor is that tension between two meanings, perceiving one as if
it was the other but without it actually being so. Metaphors therefore constitute
the point of conflict between meanings, making them very useful for
understanding how social imaginaries are established. They are in constant
movement, encouraging while at the same time limiting the generation of images.
It is in this dynamic process that metaphors appear. As they gradually consolidate
the idea they represent, they lose this duality or intermediate point between
meanings as they become consistent ideas that in turn, will move from being a
perspective on things to being the things per se. Metaphors can be considered a
type of interpretive framework forming part of the discourse of a culture and
constituting a basic element for participating competently in such a culture. In
analogous terms, metaphors are organizers of experience, values, and beliefs
(LAKOFF as cited in FISHER, 1997). [9]

The last concept is that of frames as basic cognitive structures that guide the
perception and representation of reality resulting from social interaction
processes (GOFFMAN, 2006). This includes beliefs, images, or symbols shared
by a society, understanding the limited range of patterns it uses to give meaning
to the world (TRIANDAFYLLIDOU & FOTIOU, 1998). Many discussions about
and reflections on this concept provide opportunities for understanding what is
being pursued here (DAVIS, 1975; DURHAM, 2001). However, one of the best
definitions (and to our understanding most useful) is the one proposed by
LAKOFF (2007, p.17):

"Frames are mental structures shaping our way of seeing the world. As a result of
this, they shape the targets we set for ourselves, the plans we make, our way of
acting and what counts as a good or failed result of our actions. In politics, our frames
shape our social policies and the institutions we create to carry out these policies [...].
Frames of reference cannot be seen or heard. They form part of what cognitive
scientists call the 'cognitive unconscious'structures in our minds that we cannot
consciously access but which we know about because of their consequences: our

2009 FQS http://www.qualitative-research.net/


FQS 10(2), Art. 34, Lupicinio Iiguez, Pilar Monreal, Jordi Sanz, Arantza del Valle & Josep Fust:
An Integrated Analysis of the Perceptions of Health Care Users, Professionals, and Managers in Catalonia

way of reasoning and what is understood by common sense. We also know about
frames through language. All words are defined in relation to conceptual frames.
When a word is heard, its frame is activated in the brain." [10]

Along these lines and for the purposes of this study, it is very useful to define
frames of interpretation as symbolic-meaningful entities going beyond the
cognitive capacity of the individual and to locate their potential for action in social
agents, understood collectively and interactively. [11]

This theoretical framework is useful in the difficult task of constructing and


developing health policies that match the needs expressed by the population. The
limited financial resources appropriated to the health care system in the context
of modern society contrasts with the growing demand for health care, whether it
be understood as being integral to the welfare state or as something that has
personal value. Different criteria and models can be used in this process of
establishing priorities concerning health and the resulting policies. There is,
however, a common aspect, which is the importance of knowledge in this whole
process. This is so much the case that a related literature review referred to it as
evidence-based medicine (ROSENBERG & DONALD, 1995; TOMLIN,
HUMPHREY & ROGERS, 1999). This knowledge generation model is
characterized by being a clinical decision-making process based on scientific and
academic knowledge. The idea is, therefore, to break with a situation where
clinical practice is exclusively guided by the training of health staff or the
individual experiences of a few patients. An attempt is being made to turn
academic and scientific production into a useful tool for health professionals'
everyday medical decisions (SACKETT & ROSENBERG, 1995; STRAUS &
SACKETT, 1998; BUCHAN, 2003). [12]

A second aspect that the review highlights is the need to implement a patient-
centered health policy (LAINE & DAVIDOFF, 1996; BENSING, 2000; WEINER,
2004). If patients are at the center of the creation of health policy, what they think
and perceive needs to considered as valid and useful knowledge for designing
health services (JAESCHKE, GUYATT & SACKETT, 1994; KASSIRER, 1994).
The importance of this effort to include users' perspectives is rooted in the fact
that they generate benefits for themselves as patients (JAMES, COWAN &
GRAHAM, 1998); it means health policy is attuned to users in terms of usability
because their preferences are known (DAVEY et al., 2004); their perspectives are
established as efficiency mechanisms in health resource management (STEWART
et al., 2000); and the users themselves demonstrate empathy and identification
with the health care system (MEAD, BOWER & HANN, 2002). However, users
are not the only social agents highlighted by the literature as a group to be taken
into account in generating health knowledge. In this way, interest is generated in
understanding health as professional practice, not in terms of expert and
disciplinary knowledge, but as social practice shared with users of the system
(HAYNES, DEVEREAUX & GUYATT, 2002). This allows for aspects such as the
interaction between users and professionals to be included. [13]

2009 FQS http://www.qualitative-research.net/


FQS 10(2), Art. 34, Lupicinio Iiguez, Pilar Monreal, Jordi Sanz, Arantza del Valle & Josep Fust:
An Integrated Analysis of the Perceptions of Health Care Users, Professionals, and Managers in Catalonia

There is a third term justifying the use of this theoretical framework for the
specific study of the health care system. This is the concept of shared decisions
between professionals and users of the system (FROSH & KAPLAN, 1999).
CHARLES, GAFNI and WHELAN (1997), and GWYN and GWYN (1999) have
noted the explicit desire of users to be consulted concerning their health
preferences and decisions. Health professionals see how, in practice, their work
becomes more complex as they get forced to pay attention to aspects not
considered to be technically related to medical care. Social interaction in the
health field is concerned with social meanings, aspects that move away from
medicine understood purely as technological know-how. [14]

Finally, the interest shown in including patients' preferences in generating the


knowledge on which health policy is based generates an ideal space for the
application of qualitative methodology to health care (GREEN & BRITTEN, 1998;
BARBOUR, 2000). The interest in what social agents think and what their
experiences mean is fully related to the study of the social semantics concerning
the health care system. Empirical studies reviewed for the purposes of this study
show that qualitative methodology is a specific valid form of research in evidence-
based medicine (POPAY & WILLIAMS, 1998; FORD, SCHOFIELD & HOPE,
2003). Perception, opinion, and preference as concepts have evolved from
theoretical versions of social imaginary, metaphor, and interpretive framework
that were in turn derived from social theories. [15]

3. Research Methodology

Following the Weberian interpretive tradition in the social sciences, the qualitative
research reported on in this article embraces the concept of "world" from the
point of view of participants in the health care system. Its initial assumption is that
social agents are the individuals who give meaning to their actions in ways that
can change depending on the contextual imperatives that make such actions
possible or impossible. This is reflected in GOFFMAN's (1961) psychiatric
hospital research: "any group of persons ... develop a life of their own that
becomes meaningful, reasonable and normal once you get close to it ..." (pp.ix-
x). [16]

The study of the production of meaning and social imaginary made it necessary
to adopt qualitative methodology (BOGDAN & BIKLEN, 1982; DENZIN &
LINCOLN, 1998, 2000). The theoretical and epistemological bases of qualitative
methodologies make them relevant for developing the study as well as being
excellent tools for accessing the study's analyzed processes and practices. The
possibility of doing a comprehensive and major interpretation (ENRIQUE &
ALONSO, 1998) of the processes studied, as well as analyzing their specific
details makes this methodology complementary to more extensive quantitative
methodologies. Although this methodology requires a focus on contextually
delimited areas that do not allow for universalization and/or generalization, it
offers the possibility of a more detailed explanatory study. This occurs on two
fronts: (1) where the methodology respects and pays special attention to the
language of users, professionals, and managers (HOLLIDAY, 2004); and (2)

2009 FQS http://www.qualitative-research.net/


FQS 10(2), Art. 34, Lupicinio Iiguez, Pilar Monreal, Jordi Sanz, Arantza del Valle & Josep Fust:
An Integrated Analysis of the Perceptions of Health Care Users, Professionals, and Managers in Catalonia

where the methodology takes into account the combined contexts of participants'
everyday creation of meanings in relation to the construction of health care
system social imaginaries (VALLS, 1997). [17]

The pragmatic approach to qualitative methodology has therefore been flexible.


The metaphor we use to illustrate it is the French term bricoleur (LVI-STRAUSS,
1966). It is an approach making it possible to use research methods and adapt
them to the emerging needs of the research project (DENZIN & LINCOLN, 1998).
The subject of study of this article, as an extension of the wider project, overturns
planned, linear research logic, emphasizing the movement between theoretical
perspectives or the opportunistic collection of information in developing it.
However, we characterize the qualitative research in this study as follows: It is
interested in the naturalness of the situations expressed by the social agents in
their own words. DENZIN (1971) uses the term naturalistic behavior to describe
an empirical approach designed to study the social world in its own logic. Social
research is based on the everyday routines of participants in the research,
making every effort to understand their perspectives and then reproduce their
experiences, thoughts, and language in a way that makes for a detailed and
enriched study. Language not only becomes a vehicle between social agents,
analyzing it also invites us to discover central and anchored symbolic logics in
order to understand any social phenomenon (IGUEZ, 2003). Finally, BRYMAN
(1988) suggests two additional features of qualitative methodology that are
included in this study: description and process. BRYMAN understands description
as a tendency towards detail and depth in generating information. A detailed
description allows researchers to mark the broadest social context for certain
practices which might initially be thought to be individual ones. Social process is
understood in this article as the deployment in space and time of certain social
phenomena, that participants use while at the same time giving them meaning. [18]

3.1 Sampling and data collection methods

Our sampling decisions for recruiting participants did not follow random selection
criteria but rather contingent and/or intentional ones. According to PATTON
(1990), the purpose of qualitative sampling is "to include information-rich cases
for in-depth study" (p.182). [19]

To achieve this objective three different sampling techniques have been used:
typical case, political, and snowball sampling. [20]

The first sampling was carried out with typical cases within the Catalan health
care system, generated by consensus among members of the research team
during three working sessions. In order to be able to include the whole range of
typical positions constructed and circulated concerning the Catalan health care
system, a typical sample that might be characteristic and distinctive of the
different agents involved in the system was agreed upon by consensus. For this
reason, three basic profiles were considered:

2009 FQS http://www.qualitative-research.net/


FQS 10(2), Art. 34, Lupicinio Iiguez, Pilar Monreal, Jordi Sanz, Arantza del Valle & Josep Fust:
An Integrated Analysis of the Perceptions of Health Care Users, Professionals, and Managers in Catalonia

current users of public health care system services and non-current users;
care-givers are considered as people responsible for one or more regular
users of the health care system;
professionals involved in procuring care for health service users; six typical
profiles of professionals were considered: medical, nursing, psychological,
social work, and social education;
managers are administrative workers involved in the different Catalan health
care system network centers. [21]

The second type of sampling, political, was carried out in order to confirm the
three basic profiles generated by consensus. Political sampling is understood
(PATTON, 1990) as choosing "politically important cases as one strategy for
improving the chances of a project gaining attention and findings being used"
(p.180). [22]

For the political sample, 11 individual interviews were conducted with people who
had extensive knowledge of the Catalan health care system; these individuals will
be referred to as system informants. To select these, the principal criteria
considered were: having visibility, prestige, having been given credit for
something that had to do with the system or in relation to it, and having a broad
knowledge of the Catalan health network. The 11 system informants confirmed
the profiles agreed to by the research team, although they added that more
specific sampling criteria should be introduced for each type of typical informant.
We summarize these in Table 1.

Informant profiles Sampling criteria in the selection of participants

Users Type of service currently used (according to the catalogue of


services defined by the Catalan health service). They are
grouped into four networks called: primary care. hospital,
social services/health, and mental health
Health situation: Chronic/acute
With/without dependency
Active resources for informal care and guidance
Experience with the health care system; defined by time and
the services they have used in the past. They are considered
as: veterans (with more than 6 months experience with the
service and/or in another service) and novices (with less than
6 months experience with the service and with no
involvement with any other service)
Age
Sex

2009 FQS http://www.qualitative-research.net/


FQS 10(2), Art. 34, Lupicinio Iiguez, Pilar Monreal, Jordi Sanz, Arantza del Valle & Josep Fust:
An Integrated Analysis of the Perceptions of Health Care Users, Professionals, and Managers in Catalonia

Informant profiles Sampling criteria in the selection of participants

Professionals Type of service where they currently work (according to the


catalogue of services defined by the Catalan health service).
They are grouped into four networks: primary care. hospital,
social services/health, and mental health
Educational background
Experience with the health care system, defined by time and
the services they have provided in the past
Age
Sex

Managers Type of service where they currently work (according to the


catalogue of services defined by the Catalan health service).
They are grouped into four networks called: primary care.
hospital, social services/health, and mental health
Experience with the health care system, defined by time and
the services they have been involved with in the past
Age
Sex

Table 1: Summary of the sampling selection criteria by typical informant profile [23]

Snowball sampling was used to select the final participants in the study based on
the criteria and profiles from Table 1. Snowball sampling is defined by PATTON
(1990) as a research technique in which the first subject contacted gives the
researcher the name of another subject who, in turn, provides the name of a
third, and so on. Indirect contact with the participants with the user profiles was
established by consulting lists of Catalan health care system user associations
that were available on the official websites of public institutions (Barcelona city
council, government of Catalonia, and provincial councils). Contact with
professionals was made via the different associations and official professional
associations and their provincial headquarters. Finally, contact with the different
managers was provided by the informants from the system already interviewed,
given the fact that their knowledge of their administration placed them in a
Catalan health administration gatekeeper position. [24]

2009 FQS http://www.qualitative-research.net/


FQS 10(2), Art. 34, Lupicinio Iiguez, Pilar Monreal, Jordi Sanz, Arantza del Valle & Josep Fust:
An Integrated Analysis of the Perceptions of Health Care Users, Professionals, and Managers in Catalonia

3.2 Information collection and analysis

Data from this study come in the form of individual interviews (KVALE, 1996;
HOLSTEIN & GUBRIUM, 2003), group interviews (MORGAN & SPANISH, 1984;
KRUEGER 1988; STEWART & SHAMDASANI, 1992), and oral biographical
narratives (STAKE, 1995; YIN, 2002).

System Users and care-


Professionals Managers
informants givers

eGroup
11 12
interviews

Individual
11 7 13 26
interviews

Biographical
2
stories

Total
11 98 13 124
participants

Total number of participants: 246

Table 2: Summary of data collection methods used and participants [25]

All the generated information (individual interviews, group interviews, and


biographical stories) was digitalized and transcribed, forming a single body of
data. The participants' agreement to take part in the study was recorded digitally
at the beginning of each individual or group interview or biographical narrative.
Participants' identities were not revealed. ATLAS.ti was used to analyze the data [26]

The challenge of any analytical process is to give the data meaning, reduce its
volume, identify significant patterns in line with the research project objectives,
and to effectively communicate the essence of what is revealed by the data
(RUIZ OLABUENAGA & ISPIZUA URIBARRI, 1989). There are many
approaches to analyzing qualitative data that are congruent with this objective.
However, analytical practice also teaches us that few studies remain faithful to a
single type of analysis. We could not avoid this pragmatic approach; therefore our
analysis process is characterized by the use of thematic analysis along with some
of the key aspects of grounded theory and frame analysis. [27]

The thematic analysis carried out in this study made it possible for us to uncover
the most important synergistic themes from the principle Catalan health care
system agents. In this article the themes of health resources, health processes
and information, and communication and interaction in the health care system
have been selected. This type of analysis

"is a useful approach for answering questions about the salient issues for particular
groups of respondents or identifying typical responses [...]. It is essentially a

2009 FQS http://www.qualitative-research.net/


FQS 10(2), Art. 34, Lupicinio Iiguez, Pilar Monreal, Jordi Sanz, Arantza del Valle & Josep Fust:
An Integrated Analysis of the Perceptions of Health Care Users, Professionals, and Managers in Catalonia

comparative process, by which the various accounts gathered are compared with
each other to classify those themes that recur or are common in the data set"
(GREEN & THOROGOOD, 2006, p.177). [28]

We reached a second point in the analysis process when the clarification of the
three themes selected by agents (users-care-givers, professionals, and
managers) began and through the application of the principles of grounded
theory (GLASER & STRAUSS, 1967; STRAUSS & CORBIN, 1994). This
perspective is congruent with the objectives of this study as it allows us to: (1)
take into account the heterogeneity of meanings and their links with the everyday
lives of the agents of the Catalan health care system for each of the themes; (2)
incorporate meanings emerging from agents during data collection; (3) obtain the
meanings of practices and specific examples through what is enunciated by the
agents themselves; (4) pay attention, as an element of analysis, to unique and,
therefore, atypical cases. [29]

Finally, an analysis of frames (RITCHIE & SPENCER, 1994) was carried out in an
integrated way to relate the specific aspects of the three themes of users-care-
givers, professionals, and managers of the Catalan health care system.

"The aim of policy development is not at the forefront, and generally grounded theory,
given that we can't say at the beginning what we will find out, or even who we are
going to include in the sample, is not easy to sell to policy- and practice-minded
funders" (GREEN & THOROGOOD, 2006, p.184). [30]

As this is a study commissioned by the Catalan government this type of analysis


has allowed us to systemize and present the information so that it is useful and
comprehensible for the professionals who will use the results of the research to
plan future health services. Consequently,

"What moves framework analysis beyond a sophisticated thematic analysis is the


final stage of looking at relationships between codes. This is what is known as
mapping and interpretation, so a key tactic is to use diagrams and tables to physically
explore the relationships between the concepts and the typologies developed from
them. [...] Framework analysis in general has an overt policy orientation, with an end
point of developing practical strategies on the basis of analysis" (GREEN &
THOROGOOD, 2006, p.186). [31]

We have therefore generated tables that integrate the commonalities,


differences, and discrepancies between users, professionals, and managers for
each of the themes that emerged: health resources, health processes, and
communication and interaction in the Catalan health care system. [32]

2009 FQS http://www.qualitative-research.net/


FQS 10(2), Art. 34, Lupicinio Iiguez, Pilar Monreal, Jordi Sanz, Arantza del Valle & Josep Fust:
An Integrated Analysis of the Perceptions of Health Care Users, Professionals, and Managers in Catalonia

4. Results

One of the main aims of this article is to point out the importance of the
perceptions of the agents involved in health care for planning and decision-
making in health policies, as well as reflecting the usefulness of qualitative
methodology in health research. Consequently, offering a succinct summary of
some of the results obtained that allows readers to get an approximate idea of
the scope of the research takes precedence over an exhaustive presentation of
the results. These details are available in the project's complete report (IIGUEZ
et al., 2007). [33]

We will focus on each of the themes identifiedhealth resources, health


processes, and professional-user communicationconfiguring the perception
users, managers, and professionals have of the health care system. For each of
these themes, and using illustrative tables, we will present a summary of the
results related to the integrated perspective of the Catalan health care system
agents. We understand integrated perspective to mean the holistic, comparative
analysis of the perceptions of the public, professionals, and managers that allow
us to reveal their agreements and differences concerning the dimensions of
health care which they themselves define as important. [34]

4.1 Health resources

4.1.1 Health resources: Users

Users' perceptions of the resources of the health care system are characterized
by complaints about the contrast between the high level of technological
resources and the scarcity of other resources.

"There isn't enough time to provide care, public health resources are very limited in
this respect, so you can't have even slightly personalized care with patients because I
know that sometimes with a patient, being able to talk to them a bit and allowing him/
her to express can sometimes sort out a lot of things" (GU03:88 208:208). [35]

The shortage of professionals is associated with the perception of restrictive


policies and cutbacks in resources. Gaps in material and organizational
resources are associated with the strain this represents both for users and for the
system. It is pointed out that the desirable amount of time for interaction between
users and professionals is not guaranteed because of these failings. [36]

This diagnosis refers not only to the quantity of resources, but also to their quality
and organization. In fact, the structure and organization of care is considerably
more complex; which means that, in conjunction with the lack of resources, a
confusing context for users is generated, leading to dysfunction and negative
effects concerning care, real and perceived control, and satisfaction.

"Even the GPs I have had for ... 30 years!! ... And ... well, they've normally been quite
nice but ... now they're under strain, or I don't know if more is being demanded of

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FQS 10(2), Art. 34, Lupicinio Iiguez, Pilar Monreal, Jordi Sanz, Arantza del Valle & Josep Fust:
An Integrated Analysis of the Perceptions of Health Care Users, Professionals, and Managers in Catalonia

them as ... they give worse care! In more of a hurry! With appointments! I don't know.
You don't ask more from them than you should. If you say a prescription it should be
a prescription, not two!" (GU09:8 16:16). [37]

4.1.2 Health resources: Professionals

Health care cannot be understood without professionals. They are not only the
workforce, they are also people linked to others through practices that are not
merely procedural. In this sense, the staff and its management form one of the
mechanisms that promote or impede the proper functioning of the system.
Professionals' perceptions on this issue are:

The lack of staff leading to considerable gaps in health care; the perception
that the increase in needs to be covered means more work but has not led to
an increase in personnel.
The perception that current contract conditions, together with staff turnover,
the temporary and precarious nature of jobs, still have a much more negative
effect on health care.

"The relationship is ... er ... it's quite frequent ... we do a lot of coordination, but
sometimes this coordination is not what we would want, is it? There's no ... What
would you call it, let's see ... Equity with ... How can I explain it to you? There are a lot
of professionals working in the network who do not agree with or who have
something against employment integration, either because of salaries or because of
the performance issue. And, of course, it's difficult to coordinate with these people if
they don't have the same criteria" (SMPP03:44-44).

Complaints over the waste of professional competencies due to actions and


tasks not directly related to care.

"The economic criteria of the hospital manager guides when patients should leave
the hospital and go home. This has more relevance than the clinical criteria of a
doctor, a psychologist, a nurse or from a group of professionals who know better
about patients' lives. It takes me out of my nerves and it is happening so often"
(GSMP02: 600-611). [38]

4.1.3 Health resources: Managers

Managers offer a perspective on health resources that is focused on the


perceived gaps in both financial and human resources, considering the needs
that are necessarily covered. This diagnosis of the use of these resources is
related to the monitoring carried out and with what should be done to optimize
their management. They also refer to a lack of time to address management
issues and its repercussions.

"I think hospitals are dimensioned to care for the general populationthe demands of
the population 15 or 20 years ago; a demand, let's say, related to a primary system

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FQS 10(2), Art. 34, Lupicinio Iiguez, Pilar Monreal, Jordi Sanz, Arantza del Valle & Josep Fust:
An Integrated Analysis of the Perceptions of Health Care Users, Professionals, and Managers in Catalonia

with lower public expectations than we now have. The problem that we mainly have
with this (system) is that it grinds to a halt" (HPGI:48 110:110). [39]

With respect to the lack of financial and material resources, it has been shown
that there is a lack of investment in infrastructure and that there are dysfunctions
in monitoring and evaluation policies. This leads to complaints, inequalities, and,
in all cases, an inefficient distribution of the available resources. There is also a
call for the clarification of the health model to systemize and prioritize users'
expectations and demands, providing guidance for the list of services that can be
provided effectively. [40]

The lack of human resources is largely due to two reasons: insufficient financial
appropriations and employment conditions that are often inadequate or in fierce
competition. This situation leads to declining motivation among professionals and
reduces the attractiveness of the system for competent professionals.

"Eh! ... if you're talking about professionals, they are very demotivated. There needs
to be such a radical change, as we've managed to turn the professionals into a
proletariat and work more on a more economic basis like supply and demand. That's
why we've got too much supply and we can choose how we want them, because
they've been converted into a proletariat, with low wages, etc...." (ISO8:12 27:27). [41]

The failings in time management result from both, the lack of professionals and
the erratic organization of functions and tasks. The quality of the service offered
to users and the ease with which they can access the health care system depend
on an adequate number of professionals and a well-functioning organization.

Users Professionals Managers


A) Visibility and deficits
Participants make the "informal" and private resources provided by the public for health
care invisible. Only very overworked principal caregivers, some nursing staff,
(health/social services network, and the mental health network) see a complementary aid
relationship between the formal and informal health care systems.
They see the activity as carried out mainly by medical staff and more by men than by
women. This happens equally at all levels of care and particularly in primary care.
Users particularly value
and seek nursing staff as a
reference point while they
are using the system.
All participants perceive that resources (staff and health care services) have increased.

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FQS 10(2), Art. 34, Lupicinio Iiguez, Pilar Monreal, Jordi Sanz, Arantza del Valle & Josep Fust:
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Users Professionals Managers


Managers share this idea but
they see it as impossible to
achieve. New formulas must
be sought with the arguments
that costs cannot be
increased. It has to be
accepted that the system has
reached the limit of what can
reasonably be expected. Only
a minority of managers
continue to propose optimizing
resources as a single solution
to current deficits.
B) Strains
All participants agree that the main effect of this lack of resources leads to strains
concerning responsibility, waiting times and/or work. This has different implications.
Users see the strains in:
(1) waiting to receive care,
(2) the complexity of
itineraries/routes
throughout the health care
system and (3) the
unavoidable need to
reconcile care for
dependents with working
life. They see the strain on
professionals derived from
the over demand for
services and the pressure
the system exerts on them.
Professionals do not always
see the strain on users, but
rather the pressure of
having to work harder and
do the job worse. The
maximum strain situation
affects junior hospital
doctors, as they are the
most vulnerable (lower
status, more dependent).

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FQS 10(2), Art. 34, Lupicinio Iiguez, Pilar Monreal, Jordi Sanz, Arantza del Valle & Josep Fust:
An Integrated Analysis of the Perceptions of Health Care Users, Professionals, and Managers in Catalonia

Users Professionals Managers


Managers see their strain as a
consequence of feeling that
they are almost the only ones
who have to oversee the
optimization of resources
(controlling costs). There are
two solutions for resolving the
problem: (1)
pressuring/persuading users
and professionals to include
interest in control on their
agendas and (2) extending the
role of the different
professionals contracted and
getting them to include new
functions (so as not to
increase hiring).
Medical staff experience
new responsibilities as a
strain and loss of
professional identity. They
literally think that "they do
enough" for patients. But
nurses consider them as an
opportunity to improve their
status, autonomy and/or
professional development.
C) Over-use
Participants mention over-use when they are referring to the use of additional tests in
diagnosis and the use of emergency services.
Users see the use of
additional tests as a sign of
good health care and they
do not consider this
overuse.
Professionals recognize
they are over-using the
service but they consider
this necessary given current
conditions under which
health care has to be
carried out (lack of time and
user pressure).

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FQS 10(2), Art. 34, Lupicinio Iiguez, Pilar Monreal, Jordi Sanz, Arantza del Valle & Josep Fust:
An Integrated Analysis of the Perceptions of Health Care Users, Professionals, and Managers in Catalonia

Users Professionals Managers


Mangers believe there is over-
use, partly because of the
current conditions in which
care is given and partly
because of excessively and
unnecessarily defensive and
technocratic practices by
medical staff.
D) Inequalities
Participants see the differences and inequalities between regions for the
provision/catalogue of services very clearly. Those affecting waiting times for surgery,
social service/health care (palliatives and home care support) and mental health care are
most visible.

Table 3: Health resources: Agreement and discrepancies [42]

4.2 Health processes

4.2.1 Health processes: Users

Users' perceptions in relation to health processes are articulated based on time


and coordination of itineraries/routes throughout the health care system. Users
perceive that when they approach the system they enter a context full of paths
they need to follow, where there is no one to explain them. The result of this is
that they are saddled with more responsibilities than they ordinarily should have,
leading to disorientation and helplessness. Whether they can face these
situations successfully or not is tied to learning from what takes place during their
experience within the system. Meanwhile, the processes within the system take
too long. This is a specific dysfunction with very negative effects due to the fact
that users' time is one thing and the system's time is another.

"P1: Then, when you have a chronic problem, when you've spent years in hospital, you
gain experience. Then you know what you mustn't do, you know you've got to do some-
thing else. The doctors know you've done that and you go on" (EPU03:5 36:36). [43]

4.2.2 Health processes: Professionals

Professionals' perceptions in relation to health processes are articulated around


arguments related to teamwork and coordination. Teamwork is seen as a very
important element, as a way of inspiring and basing actions and professional
practice, as a modus operandi and as an indicator of the effectiveness of
professional practice. Coordination is understood as something requiring a
minimum of consensus, one that serves as a constructive common base; but
working on a team is often considered sufficient to know how to tackle a difficult
task. So, teamwork means sharing knowledge and practices and being willing to

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FQS 10(2), Art. 34, Lupicinio Iiguez, Pilar Monreal, Jordi Sanz, Arantza del Valle & Josep Fust:
An Integrated Analysis of the Perceptions of Health Care Users, Professionals, and Managers in Catalonia

carry out joint action where the action of caring is more important than who
practices it. [44]

In their view, satisfaction or dissatisfaction with employment conditions, the


precarious nature of jobs, involvement in the activity, and other aspects strongly
influence the chances of coordination while being less influential when it comes to
teamwork. However, professionals have expressed the idea that professional
practice policies have not allowed for coordination. In fact, they highlight
insufficient coordination as the most outstanding feature of their activity. They
indicate the complexity and heterogeneity of the context, the unequal
relationships between primary care and hospital professionals, and the effects of
expectations and previous experiences of coordination as principal coordination
difficulties.

"I mean, if you find there are the same criteria, or that they value work as an
important tool, well you can work along the same lines and coordinate. But, of course,
if you've already got a circuit that doesn't ... that thinks that they're poorly paid.. or that
the workers are being rather exploited ... if there are professionals who think that, and
that this feeling is put across to the worker and, of course ... that takes off and then ...
The information is a bit disjointed and the process doesn't continue" (SMPP03:
136-136). [45]

Finally, the lack of coordination can be seen at the different levels of operational
independence and action of care viewpoints, even though continuity is a user
care requirement. The disconnect caused by the lack of coordination often leads
professionals to refer to their activity in civil servant terms, as a way of summing
up the fact that applying illness/user specific procedures takes precedence over
providing care (the focal point of the system). [46]

4.2.3 Health processes: Managers

Managers' perceptions stress the need to establish a different model. A model is


proposed that prioritizes the health care user in the system, substituting a
management model that focuses on professionals with one that is user-focused.
Additionally, they stress the need for the system's adaptation to needs defined by
the current situation, including those related to levels of care that currently
impede coordination and other operational aspects.

"Theoretically everything is very coordinated, everything is the same system but, of


course, here in Catalonia we have a system with a lot of autonomy for the centers
which is very good for some things, but we've reached a point where this autonomy
has gone far enough and become a bit of a mess" (HPGI:23 49:49). [47]

In the view of managers, coordination is a central element of the system for the
organization of services and for professional practice. Coordination must be
compatible with autonomy. The characteristics of interpersonal relationships,
such as competition or lack of trust seem to have a very negative effect on any
attempts at coordination. Meanwhile, problems associated with the lack of

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FQS 10(2), Art. 34, Lupicinio Iiguez, Pilar Monreal, Jordi Sanz, Arantza del Valle & Josep Fust:
An Integrated Analysis of the Perceptions of Health Care Users, Professionals, and Managers in Catalonia

coordination are principally related to the greater number of users (e.g. chronic
patients) who need to deal with a very large number of professionals, as well as
the loss of primary care (community health centers)2 contact and control suffered
when users get into the hospital network.

"But, with elderly people what happens is that they start with one specialist, after six
months a second one appears, after a year a third appears and they end up having
four specialists and a GP who writes them out prescriptions" (ISO6:8 33:33). [48]

From this point of view, coordination encompasses care services, the levels or
parts of the system, as well as professionals. Managers mention different critical
points in situations such as care integration or referral. Problems arising from a
lack of knowledge among professionals at one level about professionals at
another level are highlighted as features of their perceptions, particularly in terms
of hospital network professionals knowing little or often being misinformed about
primary care services.

Users Professionals Managers


A) Processes and routines
Participants agree that the processes involved in health care have to be well-defined,
easy to understand, and known by the different agents.
Professionals show
ambivalence as they want
fixed processes involving
little bureaucracy not
involving interactivity with
professionals of equal or
higher status. At the same
time they want a degree of
autonomy and the use of
their professional
judgment. They ask for
breaking down processes
so that all their
components can be
specified and carrying out
avoiding professional
relationships, as if they
were merely functions of
each professional role.

2 Primary care is a term used for the activity of a health care provider who acts as a first point of
contact for all patients. Continuity of care is also a key characteristic of primary care. Primary
care involves the widest scope of health care, including patients of all ages, patients of all
socioeconomic levels, and geographic origins, patients seeking to maintain optimal health, and
patients with multiple chronic diseases.

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FQS 10(2), Art. 34, Lupicinio Iiguez, Pilar Monreal, Jordi Sanz, Arantza del Valle & Josep Fust:
An Integrated Analysis of the Perceptions of Health Care Users, Professionals, and Managers in Catalonia

Users Professionals Managers


Managers maintain two
central interests when it
comes to processes:
optimization and increasing
efficiency. Users' needs and
satisfaction are not central,
as they will be dealt with as a
direct result of improving
treatment, which they place
outside the duration of the
consultation; this is how the
needs of professionals
largely medical staffand of
the system come to be
central in designing
processes.
Users want simple,
integrated processes
designed to focus on their
needs; and they always want
the guidance of a
professional (given the high
level of anxiety originating in
health problems and the
uncertainty involved in the
care processes dictated by
the system). This means
that: (1) the system has to
have professional teams
managing complex cases
and (2) the public must have
the chance to learn to
manage their care
itinerary/routes throughout
health care system.
B) Coordination and information systems
Professional and managers reduce the notion of
coordination to links between information systems and
case management with clear referral criteria (and they are
not sure about the integration of professionals and
services). In this way they associate it with a
standardization of practices and relations between
services and systems, as well as with the homogeneous
implementation of protocols and procedures.

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FQS 10(2), Art. 34, Lupicinio Iiguez, Pilar Monreal, Jordi Sanz, Arantza del Valle & Josep Fust:
An Integrated Analysis of the Perceptions of Health Care Users, Professionals, and Managers in Catalonia

Users Professionals Managers


It is a question of sharing
clinical and financial
information in order to
prevent duplication of care
(additional tests) and of users
and professionals
collaborating to control costs
Professionals believe that
this means sharing clinical
information and
scientifically validated
procedures for action (for
efficiency reasons and to
reduce potential conflicts
arising from relationships
with colleagues). And
sharing with users
information about
established care itineraries
(so as not having to
provide a response to their
constant demands for
guidance); and about their
health situation (so as to try
to improve their
compliance with treatment
and with the rules for use
of services).
For users coordination
means there is no
duplication or gaps in care.
And it can be seen when
information circulates and is
shared between the
professionals providing care.
Users do not want to be the
only people with the
knowledge and records of all
points that make it possible
to have a continuous overall
view of what is going on.

Table 4: Health processes: Agreement and discrepancies [49]

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FQS 10(2), Art. 34, Lupicinio Iiguez, Pilar Monreal, Jordi Sanz, Arantza del Valle & Josep Fust:
An Integrated Analysis of the Perceptions of Health Care Users, Professionals, and Managers in Catalonia

4.3 The professional-user relationship

4.3.1 The professional-user relationship: Users

Users' perceptions are very clear; they include information transmission


processes, communication typologies, as well as the way professional-user
interactions take shape. [50]

Users perceive communication from health care providers as deficient, when this
information relates to their specific health problem. They often give details of very
inadequate or potentially harmful information, and communication practices,
which are associated with the position given to users in the health care system.
These perceived deficits and problems make users feel displaced, ignored, and
even invalidated agents making decisions about their own health.

"I mean, there is like ... like a kind of middle ground ... which is what ... which is what
we are supposed to occupy ... where you say, well, you're the doctor and you're the
one who knows and so, tell me and let's see ... the thing is that I'm the patient and I'm
the owner of this body and so ... there are certain decisions which I have to make,
aren't there? And it's as simple and as difficult as that ... but it's very hard ..."
(GU06:46 156:156). [51]

In relation to interaction processes, users define them in terms of agent positions


(users, caregivers, and professionals) that are different and marked by a strong
asymmetry. In this sense it can be concluded that recognizing users as persons
and competent agents, considered in ethical, moral, and political terms, or as
individuals with a voice is not always guaranteed by the health care system.

"And it was the ... the endoscopy, at the endoscopy they put the tube in and they
hadn't finished putting the tube in, they pulled the tube backwards and said 'Oh! If
what you've got is thrush right up into your mouth, what you've got is AIDS', and she
went away'Get dressed and you can go'. And she went and I got dressed. That's
how I found out I had AIDS" (GU04:148 377:377). [52]

Users allude to bad experiences such as feeling mistreated or ignored and others
who relate having received differential treatment by the same professional,
depending on whether the visit took place in a public or private sector site. A very
important element is the credibility professionals confer on users and how it
influences the care they consequently receive. This is why the effects of a lack of
credibility often delegitimizes users, frequently causing them to suffer at the
hands of professionals charged with attending them. At the same time, users also
value aspects found in health professionals, their commitment, responsibility,
competence, consideration, positive disposition, modesty, and trust/empathy.

"And this is fundamental, they need to listen to you, to guide you, to take you ... to
educate you, to know what you've got to do and learn to control things and, when you
come to see them, if you've done it wrong to tell you Listen, this doesn't work' but if

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FQS 10(2), Art. 34, Lupicinio Iiguez, Pilar Monreal, Jordi Sanz, Arantza del Valle & Josep Fust:
An Integrated Analysis of the Perceptions of Health Care Users, Professionals, and Managers in Catalonia

you've done it right they should also tell you (what doctors should be like)" (GU07:42
107:107) [53]

Health care users allude to and assess a number of their own behaviors that they
perceive as being negative or positive. The former are withdrawal,
powerlessness, helplessness, disorientation, deception, and fear while the latter
are politeness, responsibility, treatment adherence, and a willingness to
collaborate or confront. They also perceive that some of the behaviors they have
to enact when they approach the system are asking for help, being polite, acting
responsibly, adhering to treatment, collaborating, confronting, being proactive,
being demanding, drawing attention, demanding fairness, and complaining. [54]

4.3.2 The professional-user relationship: Professionals

Professionals' perceptions of their relationship with users are articulated in


relation to the type of interaction the professional maintains with users in terms of
the perception of this interaction, the consequences of the type of relationship,
some aspects of self-perception, and the effects of sociological changes. These
perceptions indirectly speak to communication and interaction competencies with
users. [55]

The professionals establish differences between dealing with users as "sick


people" or even people suffering from a particular illness or disorder, making it
more difficult to consider them simply as people. This difference in treatment is
perceived as an important factor for the operation of the system and professional
practice. [56]

Professionals' perceptions recognize that users seek certain interlocutors within


the system who are more accessible and perceived as being capable of
entertaining joint decisions.

"Because he's very busy. They tell you 'You could be a doctor, with everything you
know' and you tell them 'No, I'm a nurse and I'm happy with that' and the people tell
you 'I can explain things better to you, because ... well, I don't know'. The thing is they
give different care, training like everyone. People are starting to know about the work of
nurses, so now is our time, now is the time to move forward" (GAPP02: 533-533). [57]

The relationship development between professionals and users can be explained


in terms of the conditions where their activity is carried out. The pressure
professionals feel as they attempt to fulfill the institutional agenda, deal with the
volume of demand, as well as developing a professional role characterized their
point of view. Thus, professionals directly or indirectly establish differences
between doctors and nurses. A specific aspect is the image created of specialists
as a repository of higher knowledge compared to general practitioners (GPs).
The effects of this characterization are exemplified in the case of the GP. GP's
are often confused by users with medical staff working at the level of hospital
care. Users think that primary care is a secondary extension of hospitals care.

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FQS 10(2), Art. 34, Lupicinio Iiguez, Pilar Monreal, Jordi Sanz, Arantza del Valle & Josep Fust:
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"The image, eh? Not reality, because it's not what I think. But the image is that in
primary care doctors have a good life, that they go home for lunch, that they finish at
3 and that it's very relaxed. I've heard my manager say 'When I'm retired I want to be
a GP'. I've heard this and he said it in a forum where there were 15 doctors. The
perception is sort of a few grannies coming in with a cold or a sore throat, and that it's
all like that. I think that shows utter ignorance of primary care, don't you?"
(GAPP01:935-935) [58]

Finally, two societal changes appear to have a considerable effect on users'


perceptions of the quality of care. One is the aging of the population, which is
generating great pressure on practitioners. The other is the increase in the
immigrant population from outside Spain with characteristics that translate to
considerable demand for care: communication difficulties because of the
language, and the fact that professionals have a dependent relationship with
assistants from outside health care in order to do their jobs. [59]

4.3.3 The professional-user relationship: Managers

With respect to perceptions of behavior and the characteristics of the


professional-user relationship, the main aspects highlighted by managers make
particular reference to new demands and their link with training and participation
needs.

"It hasn't adapted well enough or quickly enough to the problems arising: elderly
people, for example, or dependency ... The health care system that has been
designed is a system for sorting out a broken arm or curing an infectious disease
or ... of course it is! You don't cure chronic disease or degenerative illnesses in
elderly people. At best you make sure they don't get worse. And the whole machinery
designed for an acute system is not efficient for a chronic system, and it's expensive"
(ISO1:11 30:30). [60]

According to managers, there has been a recent change in the characteristics of


users who have become more demanding, although the extent of their demands
can vary according to their social and cultural levels. Managers are also aware
that, from a user's point of view, a good professional treats people well, and that
in addition to asking for information users also want to participate in decision-
making. [61]

Managers offer quite a positive assessment of users' demands and requirements.


However, they question the degree to which the system should respond. Along
these lines, they question the possibility of actually satisfying everyone. As
managers they point out the need for clarity on what the system can offer and
question the consequences of the model the system is moving towards. In
addition, managers see the need to educate users about their can't wait culture;
one that turns them into bad service users, such as when they walk into the
emergency room without having a strict need that corresponds to the service.

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Users Professionals Managers


A) The value of the information and the relationship
Users want professionals to value
and seek the information they
might give at consultations and; to
stop expecting users to be a
source of information with value
for professionals. Users want to
know about their health situation,
understand the options of care the
professional is considering for
their case. To interpret this need
for information of users, it is
necessary to take into account the
fact that the knowledge they are
seeking is gradually
generated/developed in a
relational context based on
previous knowledge and that this
learning occurs in a situation of
limited rationality due to the
anxiety involved in the situation. It
is a position from which there is a
constant need to understand, to
have the opportunity for
reassurance and/or to confirm
that they are doing whatever is
considered appropriate to achieve
the objectives. Thus, it is not only
a need for particular pieces of
information at one point in the
process which may or may not be
understood.
Professionals and managers want users with
competence equal to their own to understand health-
related information. They value the information users
have about what is happening to them unequally.
They all see that this relationship is crucial for
generating user satisfaction, but not all of them see it
as essential for good practice (e.g. for therapeutic
effectiveness or efficiency) in all cases.

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FQS 10(2), Art. 34, Lupicinio Iiguez, Pilar Monreal, Jordi Sanz, Arantza del Valle & Josep Fust:
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Users Professionals Managers


Professionals see
themselves as obliged to a
gradual distancing from
users that leaves them
when giving information as
representatives of the
system.
B) Need for extension versus need for limits on the relationship
Placing limits on care is largely seen as the equivalent to placing limits on the time of the
relationship. The difference is that for managers setting these limits is necessary, but for
users it is not. Professionals are divided on this issue and nursing staff largely share with
users the fundamental value attributed to relationships in care.
The relationship is the most
important thing for feeling well
cared for. That is, it is an indicator
which, from users' point of view,
can be used as an index. The
relationship is where the other
values of health care, such as a
good diagnosis and the
effectiveness of the treatment, are
given to them.
Professionals and managers agree that isolated,
effective responses can be given to many demands
without paying attention to relationships. For a
significant number of professionals, this is not
considered good practice, above all in the primary
care (community health center), social services and
in health and mental health networks.
C) Collaborative relationship versus caring relationship
Tradition and inertia help to reproduce in encounters a paternalist-type of caring
relationship. But participants agree in seeing that in theory it would be desirable to
establish a collaborative relationship, largely characterized by the user's full participation
in decision-making and a complementary role in providing care. Despite this, only the
active members of users' associations and a minority of professionals and managers do
anything effective to make this kind of relationship possible in everyday practice.

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FQS 10(2), Art. 34, Lupicinio Iiguez, Pilar Monreal, Jordi Sanz, Arantza del Valle & Josep Fust:
An Integrated Analysis of the Perceptions of Health Care Users, Professionals, and Managers in Catalonia

Users Professionals Managers


Participants emphasize the
respectful relationship with users;
a relationship that includes
respect for their decisions, and
consideration of their point of view
and autonomy. Participation
refers to: (1) enjoying recognition
and opportunities for action within
the system (recognition of their
competence); (2) being able to
make a collaborative contribution;
and (3) becoming effective agents
in the system.

Table 5: The professional-user relationship: Agreement and discrepancies [62]

5. Discussion

In this last section we will highlight the innovative aspects of this research and the
conclusions that can be drawn from them, covering the innovative conceptual and
methodological contributions it offers, particularly the notion of health agent
participation and the usefulness of qualitative methodology in health care system
research. [63]

Introducing user participation as a constitutive element of health care involves


questioning current health care system design, planning, and implementation
practices. That is, it means contemplating a change in the form of user
participation, from being perceived as a fleeting opportunity, to one that considers
it an integral part of health planning. [64]

A participative approach requires positioning users as active agents for change in


the process of improving public health and health care provision to citizens A
participative model means that the other agents in the health care system
(professionals and managers) should be positioned in a relationship that values
the position of each patient as a legitimate knowledge source of living conditions
and health. This means it is necessary to understand each patient's individual
needs without losing sight of the holistic concept of the health care system
(BERG, 1999; HAGE, 2000). That is, recognizing patients' needs and
perspectives as a valid resource for clinical practice rather than considering them
a problem or source of difficulty for the general operation of the health care
system (ASHWORTH, LONGMATE & MORRISON, 1992; KIRK &
GLENDINNING, 1998). [65]

Based on the work of KONING and MARTIN (1996), additional practical aspects
can be derived from the concept of participation: (1) clearly defining the roles and
functions of participants; (2) understanding the notion of power shared among

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FQS 10(2), Art. 34, Lupicinio Iiguez, Pilar Monreal, Jordi Sanz, Arantza del Valle & Josep Fust:
An Integrated Analysis of the Perceptions of Health Care Users, Professionals, and Managers in Catalonia

participants; (3) incorporating the local knowledge of each of the participants; (4)
and considering the possible diversity of opinions about future expectations in the
participation process. [66]

One of the keys to the success of user participation in the health care system is
generating knowledge about their specific health needs. In this way, adopting
qualitative methodology involves taking on the importance of analyzing and
interpreting the meaning people give to their actions and the actions of others, as
well as contemplating the complementary nature of description and
comprehension. These assumptions are very useful in health policy research and
are particularly important when scientific studies deal with health policies that
place the patient/user at the center of planning (SATURNO HERNNDEZ 1995;
MATURANA & CORBELLA, 2000). [67]

As we see it, a qualitative perspective is an important element in measuring the


quality of care received by users (WENSING & GROL, 1998). This is
demonstrated in studies by BATALDEN (1998), WENSING and ELWYN (2002),
and others that reveal certain specific elements in: (1) providing information for
users, (2) elucidating patients' preferences at each point of their care plan, (3)
providing user feedback on the health care system, and (4) designing health
resources and services in accordance with the needs expressed by users. [68]

Consequently, our research can be seen as a qualitative methodological


contribution to the development of health policy planning in Catalonia (DE LA
PUENTE & FUST, 2008), providing ideas and issues for future research in the
design of health services based on how users, managers, and professionals
perceive the Catalan health care system (IGUEZ et al., 2008). [69]

Acknowledgments

We would like to express our thanks to all the people, associations, and
institutions that have made this research possible, either as informants or
facilitating our contacting informants. Confidentiality does not allow us to name
participants, nevertheless we want to thank them. Finally, we would like to
remember Marga SNCHEZ-CANDAMIO in her role of research coordinator, and
for her ability to transform, with enthusiasm, an initial and small idea into useful
knowledge for health care policy-making.

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FQS 10(2), Art. 34, Lupicinio Iiguez, Pilar Monreal, Jordi Sanz, Arantza del Valle & Josep Fust:
An Integrated Analysis of the Perceptions of Health Care Users, Professionals, and Managers in Catalonia

Authors

Lupicinio IIGUEZ is professor of social Contact:


psychology at the Autonomous University of
Barcelona. Lupicinio Iiguez
Dpt. Psicologia Social
Universitat Autnoma de Barcelona
Edifici B
08193 Bellaterra, Barcelona, Spain
E-mail: lupicinio.iniguez@uab.cat

Jordi SANZ is a sociologist and researcher Contact:


specializing in health issues in the Department of
Social Psychology at the Autonomous University Jordi Sanz
of Barcelona. Dpt. Psicologia Social
Universitat Autnoma de Barcelona
Edifici B
08193 Bellaterra, Barcelona, Spain
E-mail: Jordi.sanz@campus.uab.cat

Pilar MONREAL is a lecturer in the Department of Contact:


Psychology at the University of Girona.
Pilar Monreal
Departament de Psicologia
Universitat de Girona
C/ Creu, 2
17071 Girona, Spain
E-mail: pilar.monreal@udg.edu

Arantza DEL VALLE is a lecturer in the Contact:


Department of Psychology at the University of
Girona. Arantza del Valle
Departament de Psicologia
Universitat de Girona
C/ Creu, 2
17071 Girona, Spain
E-mail: a.delvalle@udg.edu

Josep FUST is director of the Health Map. Contact:


Directorate General of Planning and Evaluation at
the Department of Health of the Government of Josep Fust
Catalonia. Departament de Salut. Direcci General de
Planificaci i Avaluaci
Travessera de les Corts, 131-159. Pavell Ave
Maria
08028 Barcelona, Spain
E-mail: jfuste@catsalut.cat

Citation

Iiguez, Lupicinio; Monreal, Pilar; Sanz, Jordi; del Valle, Arantza & Fust, Josep (2009). An
Integrated Analysis of the Perceptions of Health Care Users, Professionals, and Managers in
Catalonia [69 paragraphs]. Forum Qualitative Sozialforschung / Forum: Qualitative Social
Research, 10(2), Art. 34, http://nbn-resolving.de/urn:nbn:de:0114-fqs0902340.

2009 FQS http://www.qualitative-research.net/